California Billionaire’s Renewable Energy Measure Is on Nevada Ballot

Published October 30, 2018

Voters in Nevada this November will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would more than double the amount of solar, wind, and some other types of renewable energy Nevada’s electric utilities are required to deliver.

Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future, a climate interest group funded by California billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer, sponsored the initiative, Question 6, and gathered sufficient signatures to have it placed on the November ballot.

Currently, about 20 percent of Nevada’s energy comes from renewable sources. The state’s renewable energy mandate requires 25 percent of the electricity provided by utilities in the state come from renewable sources by 2025. If voters approve Question 6, the amount of renewable power that utilities would be required to provide would double to 50 percent by 2030.

Because Question 6 would amend Nevada’s constitution, voters would have to approve the initiative a second time in 2020 before it would become law, if they approve it this year.

‘Expensive and Unreliable Electricity’

If Nevada voters approve the higher renewable power mandate, they will see substantial price hikes on their electric bills, says James M. Taylor, a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“California’s electricity prices are twice as high as Nevada’s, largely due to California’s renewable energy policies, which are wrecking Steyer’s home state,” Taylor said. “People, money, and jobs are fleeing as a result.

“Now he wants to impose California’s misery on Nevada by forcing Nevadans to buy the same expensive and unreliable electricity that is ruining California,” said Taylor. “If Nevadans pass the measure, they will receive very little in return for rapidly rising energy bills, because global warming warnings consistently fail to materialize and America is leading the world in carbon dioxide emission reductions without mandates, anyway.”

Price, Reliability Concerns

Electricity prices will rise if Nevadans approve Question 6, says Michael Schaus, communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

“Doubling the renewable energy mandate to 50 percent by 2030 will do two things: Prices will rise, and electric power reliability will decline,” said Schaus. “The price is what most people are going to focus on initially, because when you get your electricity bill and see a steep increase during the summer months when everyone is running their air conditioning, it’s going to hit home for folks.

“The current renewable power mandate is already high, and increasing it by the large amount proposed in Question 6 would force prices to climb even higher while reducing Nevadans’ options to obtain affordable energy from a variety of sources,” Schaus said.

Schaus says reliability of electricity will decline if the higher renewable energy mandate is approved.

“In addition, nobody seems very happy about the power outages they experience in California,” said Schaus. “Nevadans don’t think about this a lot because we generally have pretty dependable power right now, but it’s something that will start to creep into the conversation if we see Nevada going down the same road as California.”

Hydropower Excluded

Nevada currently gets a great deal of electricity from hydropower, which isn’t counted as renewable, Schaus says.

“Currently we have a 20 percent renewable requirement, but renewable mandates are more political than environmental,” Schaus said. “For instance, hydropower isn’t even included as one of the renewables the state can use to reach its standard, despite the fact that Nevada has Hoover Dam.

“None of the energy produced by the dam counts towards Nevada’s renewable mandate,” said Schaus. “The RPS is very much politically motivated to benefit just a couple of industries—largely wind and solar—and this is where the state is right now.” 

Calls for Assessment

Instead of imposing a renewable mandate focusing on politically preferred energy sources, people should undertake an honest overall environmental assessment of competing energy sources, Schaus says. If they did so, they would not view solar favorably, he says.

“If you look at solar, for instance, it really isn’t a renewable resource,” Schaus said. “Yes, sunlight is free and plentiful in Nevada, during the day, but there are many other environmental impacts you have to consider.

“Solar panels don’t grow on trees, and to manufacture them you have to mine rare earth materials, and there are a lot of costs and environmental impacts in doing that,” said Schaus. “It would be much wiser to look at things like hydro and try to promote things that are efficient from a resource-use perspective, things that have the least environmental impact, allowing solar and wind to enter the market when they become more affordable and more efficient without mandates. That would be a win for Nevada ratepayers.”

Part of Bigger Plan

Schaus says Steyer’s renewable initiative in Nevada is just part of a larger green energy push the California billionaire has for the United States as a whole.

“Nevada is probably the next [state] on his list because the political environment here is moving more progressive and ‘environmental,'” Schaus said. “Climatically, Nevada is positioned in such a way that solar has always been a big topic of conversation here.

“Obviously, we have a lot of sun and a lot of open space, so everyone has been trying to push solar for quite some time,” said Schaus. “Steyer may see Nevada as an opportunity for an easy win, but he is not taking into account the fact Nevadans are overwhelmingly tired of paying as much as we do for electricity. I think people are going to be outraged if they see their prices start to climb substantially in the next couple of years.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.